There isn’t a child of the 90s that doesn’t remember the pog craze that swept the nation. But while most might assume that the game was nothing more than a fad, dreamed up by advertising executives who wanted every kid to collect an assortment of advertisements and movie-tie ins, the history of these little disc is far more colorful and extensive than one might suspect.
The pog is actually a disc that dates back to the late 1800s, – a simple device used to help seal beverage bottles such as milk or juice. It was trademarked in 1889 by H.P. and S.I. Barnhart and might have gone unnoticed, other than in the beverage industry, had the children of the Hawaiian Islands not devises a game to play with them. This ‘flipping game’, similar to tiddlywinks were played with the discs that kids collected from the bottles of tropical fruit juice called POG (a result of the acronym formed by its three ingredients – Passion fruit, Orange and Guava).
While the game that children played with POG caps was passed down through the years, better toys eventually arrived and it was on its way to becoming extinct – that is, until a Hawaiian schoolteacher by the name of Blossom Galbiso started using old POG caps to teach her young students about Hawaiian history. When she shared the age-old game of POG with them, they flipped over the popular pastime, and their enthusiasm eventually made its way to the mainland in the early 90s.
As kids started to embrace the game, toy companies got into the action, realizing that pogs could be easily and cheaply manufactured, and starting producing them en masse out of materials such as wood, aluminum and plastic. Two specific sizes were made available, the regularly sized pog and the somewhat larger slammers that were a tad thicker and acted much like the squidger in a game of tiddlywinks. Kids enthusiasm towards pogs increased exponentially and they started collecting them. Once toy manufacturers witnessed the popularity of these little discs, they realized that a pog contained something else – some highly valuable advertising space. Soon, pogs were adorned with imagery from everything from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to The Lion King. Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon and just about every movie released had a pog associated with it. And as one might expect, darn near every company in existence, from Coca-Cola to McDonalds, even United Airlines, were soon issuing mass quantity of pogs that proudly displayed their logos. And, although the pog fad eventually faded to a mere fraction of what it once had been, that didn’t stop Taco Bell from issuing a set of Star Wars pogs for the release of Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace.
To this day, in fact, pogs are still occasionally manufactured and for those with a penchant for the pastime, the World Pog Federation is still going strong. And considering the fact that the pog tradition has a history dating back over a hundred years, perhaps they shouldn’t be written off as fad of yesteryear just yet. Chances are that a future generation or two may just find themselves flipping pogs in the grand tradition of their ancestors. Not a shabby history for something that was invented merely to line a milk bottle.
If you have any experience playing the pog game, or merely watched with puzzlement as your younger siblings flipped over these little discs, we welcome your recollections in our comments section, as we shed some light on this history of this infectious little game.